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September 2017

Peter on a ‘Different Way’ of Leadership (Leighton Ford)

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What follows is (part of) an imagined interview with Peter which seeks to bring out the key elements in Jesus’ style of transforming leadership development.

Interviewer: Thanks very much for agreeing to take the time to talk with me. I know you are a busy man and I will try not to take too much of your time.

Peter: You are welcome, and not to worry – I’ve got all the time there is. I really don’t think of myself as busy anymore.

I: Right. Now, Peter…on earth we are going through a transition right now. Many of our older leaders are getting ready to come and join you, and we have quite a crop of young ones coming along. We know the Lord left behind a first generation of leadership that has never been equaled. We want to find out how he did it…

P: Of course. But I have to make two things clear at the outset. First, he never called us leaders. He never used that word. “Disciples,” yes. “Apostles,” yes. Most often “servants”. Never leaders. Second, I am not so sure I would go along with you in thinking we were such a great crop. The raw material Jesus chose wasn’t that promising to start with. We missed the mark a lot. I know I made more than. My share of mistakes. I’ll let the others speak for themselves, but you know we didn’t always get along that well…

I: Peter, your words in 1 Peter 5:1-6

have been quoted again and again as a classic statement of the values of leadership. Give me a bit of background as to what was in your mind when you wrote that.

P: …I guess we were in a situation like yours. Many of us older ones had been around a long time, and we knew we weren’t going to be there forever. Our senior leaders, our elders, had been working a long time. Some of them were just plain tired and ground down and had lost their motivation. A few, I felt,  had lost the heart of their work and were just doing it because they were paid to do it. Some who had been in office a long time really were lording it over others.  They wanted everyone to bow to them and serve them and do what they said, and jump at their every order. At the same time, we had a crop of young turks coming along who felt that the older leaders had lost their vision and served their time and ought to step aside and let them take over. They had some great new ideas, but they were impatient, aggressive even, and if they could they would have pushed the older men into retirement.

Now, that’s not the kind of leadership I saw in Jesus…not what he taught us to be. We all had the same tendencies, but he taught us to think a different way.


Next week: Peter speaks of what it means to be a called leader.

Leighton Ford



Taken from Transforming Leadership by Leighton Ford. ©1991 by Leighton Ford. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove IL 60515-1426.





What Makes A Good Leader? (Leighton Ford)

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What makes a good leader, especially a transforming and empowering leader? The study of this issue has become complex, sometimes even confusing. As noted in chapter one, some students of leadership have focused on the traits of outstanding leaders, some on the situations which produce leadership, and others on the process by which leaders go about their task.

In my reading, I have been helped most by those who have talked with leaders, or those who follow them, to seek out the reasons for their effectiveness. So it occurred to me that it would be valuable if at this point we could include a case study of a leader developed by Jesus. The man whom I most wanted to consider was Simon Peter. Several reasons make him the prime candidate. Most obviously, he was Jesus’ own number one choice for a disciple. Also, he is mentioned and quoted by name far more than any of the other disciples – more times, in fact, than all the rest put together. Also, my primary reference…has been Mark’s account of Jesus, and we know that Mark was very close to Peter and used Peter’s preaching and recounting of Jesus’ story as the primary source for his Gospel.

Even more important, Peter was clearly Jesus’ own test case for his leadership development. After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, Peter emerged as one of the three most prominent leaders of the early church. Further, in his own writings Peter showed that he had absorbed and was passing on certain keys to leadership that he had learned from Jesus.

What follows is an imagined interview with Peter which seeks to bring out the key elements in Jesus’ style of transforming leadership development.

Later this week: Peter ‘speaks’!

Leighton Ford


Taken from Transforming Leadership by Leighton Ford. ©1991 by Leighton Ford. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove IL 60515-1426.


Is There Really A ‘Private Life’? (Henri Nouwen)

By | Reflections and Readings | No Comments

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is no one else’s business”. But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for ourselves but for all people. That is why our inner lives are gifts for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life”


From Nouwen’s Bread For The Journey (1997, HarperCollins)

The Unexpected Power of Jesus (Leighton Ford)

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Jesus came from humble parents. There was little in his lineage or early life to suggest the kind of power his peers found in him. In fact, as one of the ancient prophecies had said, God’s leader would be a “root out of dry ground” (Is 53:2). In years to come the people of his hometown who had known him as a boy would be offended at this background. Whey they saw his miracles or heard his gracious speech they sniffed, “But isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Aren’t these his brothers?”…”We know his family”. That was all that needed to be said by those who dismissed his power.

Jesus’ authority was not something imposed on others, but rather a force he exposed. He was not one to strut around saying great things, pulling off tremendous miracles, demanding attention, even passing judgments (until he felt it necessary, towards the end). Rather, his authority was the exposing of an inner spiritual power that was released little by little – through words, actions, attitudes, and his very presence – until finally his character itself seemed to be as wonderful as his greatest miracle.

Jesus’ strength of character is demonstrated in many dimensions of his personality and experience: in purpose, speech, and balance; in spirit, in suffering, and in dedication.


From Transforming Leadership (1991: InterVarsity Press)

Worry Is Loneliness (Lloyd John Ogilvie)

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“At core, worry is a low-grade form of agnosticism. Shocking? Perhaps. But look at it this way. Worry is a lurking form of doubt. At base it’s rooted in a question about the adequacy of God to meet our own and others’ needs. And it is nourished by a fear that there may be problems and perplexities in which we will be left alone; out on a limb without him! Worry is a form of loneliness. It entails facing life’s eventualities all by ourselves, on our meager strength.”


-Lloyd John Ogilvie, The Bush Is Still Burning

Prayer Is Like Watching For The Kingfisher (Ann Lewin)

By | Poetry | No Comments

Prayer is like watching for

The Kingfisher. All you can do is

Be there where he is like to appear, and


Often nothing much happens;

There is space, silence, and


No visible signs, only the

Knowledge that he’s been there

And may come again.

Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,

You have been prepared.

But when you’ve almost stopped

Expecting it, a flash of brightness

Gives encouragement.



Billy Graham – Evangelist or Activist? (Leighton Ford)

By | Evangelism | One Comment

Sixty years ago Billy Graham brought his historic 1957 New York crusade to a close with a pre-Labor Day rally that brought an estimated 200,000 to Time’s Square.

My wife and I were there as part of the team. That summer we heard Billy preach six nights a week in the old Madison Square Garden for sixteen and a half weeks. It was packed out every night except one, a record never broken. Up to 2.3 million attended and some 61,000 registered a new commitment to Christ.

That year and for many to come to come he would become known across the world for the huge crowds that came to hear his simple message: that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son with the gift of eternal life.

Billy was always an evangelist. What is often forgotten is that over the years he would also be known for an influence beyond his crusades. He desegregated his early southern crusades, and became an advocate for Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, based on what the Bible said about God’s care for all and for the poor.

That New York crusade began in May of 1957. It was twenty-five years later in May of 1982 that he made perhaps his most controversial move: accepting an invitation to attend a peace conference in Moscow.

He accepted the invitation against the advice of many, because he believed the threat of global nuclear annihilation had grown so grave that he had to take a stand. As Duke historian Grant Wacker records, he believed that “to work for peace was a moral issue and not just a political issue.” He recommended that the conference call “the nations and leaders of the world to repentance.”

Several years later he was invited back to Moscow and led a mass gathering that attracted thirty thousand. No one claims this brought about détente with the old Soviet Union. But it did open some doors, perhaps more than we will ever know.

Billy the evangelist was a reconciler in the tradition of others, like John R. Mott, the respected student evangelist and YMCA leader, who worked for peace in Russia after World War I, and the Methodist missionary E. Stanley Jones, who through his contacts with Japanese diplomats sought to avert war with Japan.

Today the nuclear-rattling threats come from North Korea. Political and military leaders are considering how best to respond without a war that would kill millions.

One of my friends who knows Korea well reminds me that Billy made a courageous visit to the leader of North Korea years ago. He was roundly criticized. Yet that was arguably the moment that convinced Kim Il Sung to allow US Christian agencies to serve there.

My friend asks: does the American church have a prophetic courage to provide that kind of presence now?

There seems to be no evangelist of Billy Graham’s stature to provide that today. But God cannot be barred from North Korea or any part of the world, and he is at work through his people.

There are many followers of Christ in North Korea living faithfully in a hard situation. We can pray for them.  There are Christian agencies (as described in a recent TIME article) who want to continue their humanitarian work, who could potentially provide channels of communication. We should urge the State Department to allow them exceptions to the recent order for all Americans to leave North Korea.

We should certainly take to heart the admonition of Paul to his young friend Timothy, and to fellow believers living under the pressure of a hostile government, that prayers should be made “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”

Naïve this may sound.  But there is no travel ban on the Holy Spirit. And God’s ways and wisdom are greater than we can imagine.


Leighton Ford, Labor Day 2017